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Posted on on January 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Cyprus and Malta adopt the EURO.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS, January 1, 2008, by Elitsa Vucheva – The European currency is today (1 January) replacing the national currencies of the two Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus, bringing the number of EU states using the euro to 15 out of the 27 member states.

The euro will replace the Cypriot pound and the Maltese lira, which currently equal €1.71 and €2.33 respectively.

Cyprus and Malta joined the EU on 1 May 2004 together with eight other states and follow Slovenia which in January 2007 became the first “new” EU state to join the euro club.

They will add around 1.2 million people to the euro zone – some 800,000 Cypriots and around 400,000 Maltese – bringing the number of those EU citizens using the euro as a national currency to 320 million out of the EU’s total 495-million large population.

The new euro coins in circulation as of 1 January also add six new “national sides” to the already existing ones.

The Maltese €1 and €2 coins represent the eight-pointed Maltese cross, seen as a symbol of the Maltese identity; the 10-, 20- and 50-euro cent coins feature the Maltese coat of arms; while the Mnajdra temples, considered to be one of the world’s oldest free-standing temple groupings, are seen on the 1-, 2- and 5-cent coins.

The Cypriot €1 and €2 coins feature the idol of Pomos, seen as representing the country’s contribution to civilisation since prehistory; the 10-, 20- and 50-euro cent coins represent the ancient Kyrenia ship symbolising the island’s historical importance from a trading point of view; and the 1-, 2- and 5-cent coins depict a species of wild sheep representing the island’s wildlife.

Cyprus and Malta got the green light to introduce the euro in May 2007, after fulfilling the necessary criteria, including a government deficit lower than three percent of GDP, a government debt not higher than 60 percent of GDP, as well as price and exchange rate stability.

On both islands, thousands of euro converters have been distributed to households to facilitate the transition to the new currency.

However, both Cypriots and Maltese citizens have indicated they fear the euro entry may be followed be a possible price rise – as it happened in Slovenia in 2007.

Strangely, Britain also introducing the euro because of its bases in Cyprus! As a side-effect of Cyprus’ adoption of the euro, the European currency will also be used in British military bases on the island.

Britain kept its sovereign military bases under an agreement signed in 1960 which released Cyprus from colonial rule.

The bases include Dhekelia, Episkopi and RAF Akrotiri, and some 10,000 British service personnel and their dependents are currently stationed on the island, according to French news agency AFP.

“It’s good news for Cyprus so we have to mirror the republic’s harmonisation with the EU as far as possible, otherwise it would make life unbelievably impossible”, British forces Cyprus spokesman Captain Nick Ulvert told the press agency.

The euro could also bring the economies of the divided island closer together, as the northern Turkish part of Cyprus may adopt the currency unilaterally, according to Reuters.

Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey internationally, is currently using the Turkish lira, but would have no objection to introducing the euro, the agency reports.

Slovakia is expected to be the next member state to adopt the euro in 2009, while the two newest EU states, Bulgaria and Romania, hope to be able to follow suit by 2010-2011 and 2014 respectively.

Of the remaining 12 countries currently not in the euro zone, only the UK and Denmark have chosen not to adopt the European currency for reasons of economic sovereignty – but they have the option to join in the future.

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